Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Motherhood, Vulnerability, and God

Before I had kids, I frequently heard mothers bellyaching about how their kids were the best birth control, and all they needed in life was some time away from those blasted kids, and how their kids were driving them absolutely crazy.  From what I could observe, motherhood looked like a lot of frustration and work.   Babysitting did nothing to change my perspective on this, as the hours always crawled by excruciatingly when I was watching other peoples' children.

My maternal instincts totally overrode all of my reason, however, and I decided to have children anyway.
So I got pregnant and, in a lot of ways, braced for the worst.  I expected motherhood to be hard.  And it has been.  It's been really, really hard.  My children exhaust me.  They frustrate me.  I worry about them obsessively.

But I was also surprised by something.

I was surprised by love.

When Soren was born, love nearly knocked me over with its unexpected and weighty arrival.  Liam brought with him more of the same.  I just had never realized that you could love someone else so much, so unconditionally.  I hadn't realized that a that a little person could be so precious to you, that the creases in his knuckles and the curve of his forehead could make your heart constrict.  That watching him use his hands to pick up a toy or open a lid could make you cry.

When I first heard about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, my first thought was of my little boy, sitting at a table in his classroom, cheeks smooth as porcelain, eyes bright and innocent.  Then I thought of the mothers standing outside an elementary school, waiting and watching in breathless agony for their little ones to come out.  I thought about the mothers whose little ones didn't come out.  My heart began to crack.  I quickly slammed my mind closed against these thoughts, because I knew that if I let my heart open up entirely to the suffering of those mothers, it would break.

When I was pregnant with Soren, I remember my mother-in-law asking me if being pregnant made me feel more vulnerable, like I was more susceptible to hurt.  I nodded vaguely, but I didn't really understand.  Not yet.  But now I do.  You've all heard that quote about how being a mother is allowing your heart to go walking around outside your body.  Then, my heart was still inside my body, nestled behind my ribs.  But now it's walking around in the form of two precious little boys.  And as the boys get bigger, my heart wanders farther away from my protective arms, tiny bit by tiny bit.

One Tuesday the boys spent a full hour outside with their little snow shovels.  They cleared off Daddy's car, then our driveway, part of the neighbors driveway, and a good portion of the sidewalk.  I watched from the window as they waddled around in their snow clothes, looking so serious and focused on their work, so proud of themselves, so unaware of how little they were.   I breathed out a prayer of gratitude and begged God to protect them, and to keep them small forever.

Once a week I get to drop Soren off at school.  I watch him walk up the long sidewalk to the building, so tiny against the sidewalk, arms holding his backpack in place, head turning to find a friend to walk with.  Sometimes he'll run, legs kicking out at the most heart-wrenching angles.

Do I ever feel vulnerable.  I just can't imagine what I would do if anything were to happen to one of my children.  I don't know how I would be able to breathe, how my heart would be able to continue beating.  But I realize that even if I am fortunate enough to keep them here with me on earth, there will be heartache.  The pathway of motherhood is paved in lots of things-- love, of course, and laughter-- also worry, fatigue, consternation, hope, delight, and bemusement- but an inevitable component is heartache.  My babies will get hurt.  They will make mistakes.  They will lose their innocence.

And that is why I cling to the hope that God exists and loves us.  Because astride the knowledge that I can't heal every hurt sits the hope that there is One who can.

Recently in church a member of our congregation, a volunteer firefighter, shared a story about helping a teenage boy who had gone outside in sub-zero temperatures without suitable protection against the cold-- he was just running to a friend's house a few blocks away-- but then preceded to get his foot caught in a bridge.  The boy had been outside for nearly an hour and was failing quickly when the paramedics arrived.  They immediately did what they could to warm his body and set about trying to free his foot.  Nothing worked.  "We had a truck full of tools but nothing was working," our fireman friend recounted.  "Critical time was passing and we were desperate, afraid we would lose him.  So I did the only thing left to do.  I prayed."  Just as he finished the prayer, an image flashed into his mind of a maneuver he could use to free the boy.  He explained it to the paramedic working with him, who said he had just had the same idea.  Together they tried the technique and immediately the boy was freed and they were able to save his life.  "I am a little ashamed," the firefighter told us, "that the most powerful tool at my disposal was the one I used last."

I find it intriguing that God couldn't (wouldn't?) do anything  to help until he prayed for guidance.  And then, instantly, enlightenment came.

In a blessing once I was told that God very much desired to be a partner with me in raising my children.  They were His children long before they were my children and he knows them far better and loves them much more than I do.  I am stubborn when it comes to religion, stubborn when it comes to asking God for help, fearful that He won't help, that I will be left kneeling at the altar, waiting in vain for an imaginary groom.  But if God can help me protect my little angels, teach them the pathways of happiness, and help them know that there is no problem that can't be fixed, I will try.  In parenting, I try very hard to be the very best mother I can be.  I have challenging children and they constantly keep me on my toes.  I read books, I make plans, I do what I can to be consistent in my discipline. But I am limited, flawed in a thousand ways, frustratingly insufficient for the task.  However, I have a great tool at my disposal and I have refused to use it for years.  I need to pray.  To ask questions and open myself up to receive answers.

Anyway, I've had this post in draft form in blogger for a long time and haven't really been able to come up with a tidy conclusion paragraph to pull everything together, so I'm going to go ahead and just publish it as is, all raw and unfinished.  The end.  :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reading Journal: John Rosemond

This was a book I desperately needed.  Amusingly, halfway through greedily lapping up the contents of this book, I realized it was written by the same guy who writes the syndicated "Affirmative Parenting" column that I despised during the years it ran in The Post Register.   Curses.   However, despite leaning a little heavily on "why, when I was a boy"- type rhetoric and making an occasional outrageous statement like "parents should always spank in anger," Rosemond makes some excellent points regarding effective parenting.  Here are his main ideas:

1. Don't put your kids first.

I know.  It sounds all wrong, but it's totally right.  This was the BIG message I needed to get from this book.  Rosemond writes, "Your average American working mom takes the concept of 'quality time' to mean that she's obliged to spend every free moment giving her children large, compensatory doses of positive attention.  After picking up the children from the day-care center, she goes home and flogs herself with the quality time whip until it's time for the children to go to bed." (Can you see the flashing arrows pointing enthusiastically at my head?)  Rosemond argues that this attitude gives children a very self-centered worldview that will develop into a very irritating entitlement problem later in life.

Obviously you need to ensure that your children's needs are met, that you are engaging in their lives and that they know that you love them, but it's ESSENTIAL for their well-being (and yours!) that they learn to respect your separateness and personhood as well.

This is the NUMERO UNO thing I need to work on with my kiddos.

2. Expect your kids to obey.

Rosemond provides an amusing description of what a basketball game would be like if the referee acted like most American parents.  When a player fouls someone, the referee stops the play, nags, whines, shouts, tears out his hair, threatens, gives second chances, etc.  Obviously, this is less effective, and the players are going to start breaking every rule they can.

Rosemond argues that effective parents should do the same.  Children should know the rules and should experience immediate, reasonable, and consistent consequences for violating them.  Otherwise, they'll waste a lot of their developmental energy on constantly testing limits.

Yup, this is another thing I need to work on.

3. Teach your kids responsibility.  

If they can do something for themselves, make them do it for themselves.  If they are capable of helping out around the house, assign them responsibilities that ensure that they're playing an important role in the family's overall well-being.

4. Say "no." 

And not just to drugs.  To kids, too!  This was another message I needed.  I have a tendency to say "yes" if I can possibly say it.  However, saying "no" will help your kids learn that you can't always get what you want, teach them (again) about your separateness/personhood, and prepare them for coping with the inevitable frustrations of real life.

5. Don't inundate kids with toys.  

The few toys they do have should be flexible and encourage imaginative play (legos, simple dolls, clay, crayons/paper, etc.).  Too many toys with smother a child's creativity.

6. Restrict TV time.  

Too much time in front of the boob tube will cut attention spans and decrease imagination.  To me, however, the biggest concern Rosemond presented is that passive television watching prevents kids from engaging their minds and bodies in the real world, completing the developmental work of childhood, and discovering their interests and passions.  Now whenever I'm tempted to put the kids in front of a movie so I can get a little extra sleep in the morning, I remind myself that every hour in front of the TV is robbing them of an hour they could spend on becoming the people they were intended to be.

My verdict is that this book is definitely worth reading, particularly (I think) if you're struggling with kids who whine, interrupt, complain that they're bored, and need lots of nagging/threatening before they'll do what you ask them to do.

Just remember: no matter what John Rosemond says, it's never okay to spank in anger.

Reading Journal: Healthy Eating

Get Naked Fast

Diana Stobo has an awesome story.  Check it out here.   This book was loaned to me by my friend Shacone and is an awesome, quick guide to "going raw."  It's all about using food to fight disease and increase your vitality.  It got me thinking more about the enzymes in my food and has provided some delicious recipes and ideas for helping me turn my diet into one that promotes optimal health.  I've stolen her mantra, "No Dairy. No Meat. No Sugar. No Wheat."  (I omitted "alcohol" and "caffeine" because it throws off the rhythm and rhyme and I've never been a consumer of either.)  Check out her website and youtube channel for awesome ideas for cooking delicious, family-friendly raw meals that will provide oodles of vitamins and minerals to allow your body to do the things it needs to do!

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook

I stumbled across this book when I did a Google search for "elimination diet," hoping to find guidelines for definitively identifying potential problem foods in my diet.  I read a little of the authors' website, checked out some reviews on Amazon, and then shot an email to my mama telling her I wouldn't be offended if she bought this for me for Christmas.  And I LOVE it.  I wouldn't NOT be able to be doing the super freakishly healthy diet that I'm on right now without the awesome guidance provided by this book.  The author provide some compelling arguments for eating a plant-based diet, descriptions of the different staples they recommend adding to your diet, and lots of fabulous, healthy recipes.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Energy Experiment: Update

A few weeks ago I posted about drastically changing my diet in an attempt to gain more energy.  

Just thought you might be curious about how it was going, so I thought I'd give you a little update.

The first three days were realllly hard.  I was super hungry and more than a little crabby.  I just kept reminding myself that this could totally be worth it if I stuck to it, so I pushed through the hardness.

Then I settled into a groove, stopped craving sugar at the end of every meal, and started (mostly) enjoying feeding my body delicious, nutrient-rich foods.

For example, I loved every bit of food I ate today-- green smoothie for breakfast, yellow curry with rice and tofu for lunch (Thai with Loriann!), bowl of quinoa with banana, flax seed, and walnuts for a snack, an apple and baked sweet potato fries for dinner.

I have had moments of desperately wanting to eat some cheese, and I occasionally indulge in a fantasy about  beef jerky, but overall I've been surprised at how little I've missed the foods I've cut out.

I definitely have to put more time/effort into food preparation and have been annoyed at the amount of time I've spent in WinCo as of late, but I imagine if after thirty days I decide to keep this up, I'll settle into a groove and everything won't be quite so time-consuming.  Plus, the Green Smoothie Girl promises that every minute spent preparing healthy foods in the kitchen will be repaid in extra energy and vitality to spend doing other things.

So how am I feeling?  About the same.   I was hoping there would be some magical instantaneous transformation after two weeks, but alas, there was not.  I do think my digestive system has been happier sans dairy, but other than that, everything is the same.  Though there is something quite fulfilling in knowing that I'm really nurturing my body, giving it foods that will help it grow and heal in the ways it needs to.  I still have hope that a plant-based diet will help with my overall well-being.

I have cheated just a little: I occasionally eat Craisins, which are sweetened with sugar, I have eaten white rice on two occasions, and at Abe's company party I ate a twice-baked potato  (and paid dearly with digestive upset the next day).

Stay tuned to see how the next two weeks go!

Soren is SIX

On January 1st, Soren rang in the new year the way he will always ring in the new year: by having a birthday.  

Unfortunately, he was sick.  His birthday celebration was postponed until the following Saturday.  But when Saturday arrived, celebrate we did!  

Here's the birthday boy, eating the chocolate orange the Smiths gave him. He was a little obsessed with that thing and devoured the bulk of it on the first day.    
Notice the gigantic snowflake in the background.  He made it.  

The guests hanging out and playing with balloons.  I tried to initiate a game of hot potato, but Soren wasn't interested.  We've started a tradition of turning the Christmas tree into a birthday tree for Soren.

Soren's cousins pretending to be stars.

Soren requested a "Max" cake again.  This year he wanted it to be based on an episode where Max paints and makes a huge mess.  I emailed Briar a picture and she reproduced it beautifully, freehand, on the cake.  

Soren has wanted a Dream Lite FOREVER and his Grandma and Grandpa Hanson indulged his fantasies.  He's also showing off his wallet, which was made fatter by Nana Forbes' six dollar contribution.

Liam noticed this year that Soren was getting presents and he wasn't getting anything.  It was a little hard to take, but he coped, as he always does, quite well.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christmas 2012

On Christmas Eve I helped the boys make gingerbread houses.  Soren's is on the left; Liam's is on the right.  Soren also made the pathway, the doghouse, and the dog bone.  

 Christmas morning. 

The Christmas gift our home teacher, Brother Kinikini, made for us.  Isn't it adorable?  And the cake was delish.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Soren Update: January 2013

While driving home with the boys tonight I was singing to them about the old lady who swallowed a fly.  I got to the end, the part where she swallows a horse....and Soren stopped me.  "Let's end it this way, okay?  I know an old lady who swallowed a horse...How aporse!  To swallow a horse!"  And then he added on serveral verses, making it "jippotamus to swallow a hippopotamus," "schinoceros to swallow a rhinoceros," "kelephant to swallow an elephant..."   Finally, when she swallowed a giraffe, he said, "She's dead, of course-- what do you think of that!"  He was happy with that for a while, then spent quite a while giggling, in true six-year-old boy fashion, about how hilarious it would be for her to poop out all the animals.  

A Halloween Planet
(dictated to Mommy as an entry in his Invention Notebook)
The bushes are black and look like bats.  The peoples' heads look like bats, their tummies are ghosts, and they have monster legs.  They also have 12 eyes.  The houses are very, very tall and have lots of bats inside.  There is a ghost monster who has 100,001 eyes.  Its feet will be as long as hundreds of beds.  The water is black and the islands are shaped like bats.  There will be a million billion suns.


We do not watch "BBC Life," we watch "ABC Life."  Likewise, we do not watch "Mythbusters," we watch "Smithbusters."


While we were driving home from Grandma's house one evening, Soren asked me why power lines were up so high.  "So that it's harder for people to ruin them or get electrocuted on them," I told him.  "Why can't we just tell people not to touch them?"  he asked.  "Because sometimes people are very dumb and do very dumb things."  He was intrigued by this idea.  "What else do these dumb people do, Mommy?"  "Uh.....they don't brush their teeth before bed," I told him. . "What else do they do?"  "They, um, don't buckle their seatbelts."  "And what else?"  "Er...they run with scissors!"  And for several days afterward, Soren would periodically ask me to tell him more about these dumb people.

Because he can't whistle, Soren will walk around singing "Foofoofoofoofoo!"


The Christmas season was a bit rough at our house.  The day after Thanksgiving, we set up two Christmas trees: our main one in the front room and a little one in the boys' room.  The first debacle occurred a week later when Soren decided to move all of the decorations from the tree in the front room to the tree in his bedroom.  Mommy threw a little fit when she returned home from work to find her tree undecorated. The next occurred when he decimated the bedroom tree during a timeout, smashing several ornaments in the process. The third happened when he pushed over and ripped apart the front room tree after not getting his own way.  Then he shredded the adorable Magic Eraser/popsicle stick person he had made as my Christmas gift.  Both the trees were removed and only one returned on Christmas Eve.


Soren burst through the door after school one day, breathless.  "Mommy!" he called.  "Mommy!  I saw a train with ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY cars and just ONE engine!  I had to run all the way from the bus stop to tell you because I'm not very good at remembering!"


Soren recently informed me that he has a girlfriend.  "Her name is Brynlee," he told me.  I got to meet Brynlee a few days later while volunteering in his classroom.  She is a very cute little girl.  Upon discovered that I was his mother, she informed me that Soren was very funny.  Then she remarked, "Soren thinks I'm his girlfriend."  "Are you his girlfriend?" I asked.  "No!" she told me.  "I'm just a kid!  Kids just have friends!"


Soren knew that his Uncle Quentin and Auntie Tailour were traveling across the country with their little baby, Oliver.  When it was his turn to pray, he made sure to ask that they be protected while they traveled.  He came up with this entirely on his own, without prompting or even hearing anyone else pray for their safety.  This was particularly delightful to me because he generally hates to pray and avoids it at all costs.


Frequently Soren will ask me to tell him "about a bad thing that happened."  He loves to hear stories about times I've been locked out of my house, my car has broken down, or a baby peed on someone.

Modeling some body art.

Oh my gosh, they're touching the same toys and nobody has exploded yet.

Captain Underpants!

Striking some poses.  

On his very first day as a 6-year-old.  Poor little guy was sick, so we had to celebrate a few days later.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Liam Update: January 2013

An image:  We are trick-or-treating, Soren and Liam and I, walking around the block to beg for candy from the neighbors.  Soren is focused on getting treats.  Mommy is focused on getting done.  Liam is trailing behind.  Suddenly, he stops.  A flock of geese passes overhead.   Hands at his sides, head thrown back, his face shines as though he is conversing with the angels.  "Birds!" he calls.  They are miraculous.

We attempted potty training for a few weeks,  but when I grew weary of hefting a 42-pound kid onto the toilet every hour and STILL washing poop out of underpants, I raised a white flag.  We'll try again soon.

When people ask Liam how he is, he proudly responds with, "I'm Liam!"

Liam has been passing through his 3-year-old picky eater phase (at least, I hope it's passing!), so I wasn't terribly surprised when we couldn't persuade him to eat more than a croissant on Thanksgiving.  He then went downstairs to watch football with the cousins and threw up on their leather couch.  I've never seen a room clear so quickly, though as the cousins rushed out, their mother, like a brave firefighter, ran in.  She heroically cleaned up the vomit so I could focus on soothing my sad child.

In the mornings while I'm exercising I'll occasionally need a little extra weight for squats and lunges.  Liam is always willing to drop whatever he's doing and quietly ride around on my shoulders for a few minutes.  So sweet.

Liam is always very good about thanking me for things.  "Oh thank you, Mommy," he'll say.

I gave in to Liam's begging at WinCo one day and let him walk beside me instead of riding in the cart.  I turned my back to pick out some portobello mushrooms and when I turned around, he was gone.  Soren and I ran up and down aisles, desperately trying to find him.  Panicked, I cornered a worker in the produce department.  "My child!  He's missing!  My four-year-old child!"  The worker found someone to call customer service and sent me up to the desk.  We found him on the way there-- walking between two store employees.  Oh Lord, thank you.

"What are you doing?"
"I'm reading.  What are you doing?"
(He'll say this even if there is not a car in sight.)

I caught him giggling in his sleep.  It was so cute.

Liam scared Mice one day.  Briar said, "Hey!  Be gentle!"  So Liam toddled over to Mice and tried to give him a hug.  "Please hug?   Please hug?"

When Liam is doing something he thinks is amazing, he'll say "Ahtch dis!"  (Watch this.)

When he's done something he thinks is amazing, he'll shout, "Ah did it!"

During the past little while, Liam has developed an irrational fear of trains.  Periodically he'll inform us that he's scared.  "What are you scared of?" we'll ask.  "I scared a train," he'll inform us solemnly.  This reminds me of Soren's irrational fear of lions

For his birthday, Soren was given a guitar that Liam immediately fell in love with.  Whenever he has a moment, he'll pick it up, strum its unmelodious strings, and make up little songs.

Liam pronounces the word "pumpkin," "popcorn."

Liam's church teacher took this picture of him.  Isn't he such a handsome little prince?  He's officially in PRIMARY now, which totally blows my  mind.  

Modeling Mommy's winter gloves.  



A tattoo given to him by his brother.

Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Dressed up as a "spooky" Christmas ghost.

Friday, January 04, 2013

2013 Goal

My goal for 2013 is to have more energy.

I have been tired-- very tired-- since I was about twenty.  Blood tests done at the time came back normal, so I went on an anti-depressant.  I have taken Zoloft for the past 8 years, and it definitely helped alleviate a little of the exhaustion and made it possible for me to get off the couch and do the things I needed to do.  But here's the thing.   I want to thrive, not survive.  I want to enjoy life, not drag myself through it.  I do not believe that it's normal to wake up tired and end the day completely drained.  

My goal is to be vivacious, energized, and excited about living.   And I'm willing to take some serious steps to accomplish this.  I have a couple of things that I'm going to try to this end, one at a time, so I can tell what's helping the most:

First, my diet.  

For thirty days I'm going to be really strict about the following:
-No Dairy.
-No Gluten
-No Sugar.
-No Meat.

I'm not fully sold on the idea of "toxins" that need to be flushed out of your system or whatever, but these are all foods that have been found to be common allergens,  have a negative impact on a lot of people's overall physiological functioning, create negative immune responses, and be an overall drain on a persons' general well-being,.

And yes, I'll get enough protein, and yes, there are plenty of foods that I can still eat.  I'll be eating plenty of green smoothies and salads, as well as potatoes, yams, quinoa, coconut oil, olive oil, brown rice, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and tofu.  (Some people think that soy products are of the devil, but I love me some tofu, so I'm going for it anyway.)

I feel a little defensive about this because I anticipate a lot of criticism.  Going vegan is kind of like homeschooling.  Despite loads of evidence to support its benefits, it runs against conventional wisdom and therefore garners a lot of general criticism.

Anyway, I know it's going to be torturously difficult throughout the first couple of weeks and, because of this, I'm putting together a survival guide for myself to help me get through the torturous first couple of weeks wherein I anticipate I will be rabidly desperate for some sugary floury cheesy treats.

I am starting this TOMORROW because I want to be more energized YESTERDAY.

Next, supplementation.  

First I'm going to try Dr. Christopher's Fabulous Five natural supplements, as recommended by my friend Shacone, who is my healthy living hero.  It's a bunch of crazy stuff like molasses, kelp, cayenne pepper, and apple cider vinegar, but I'm willing to give it a go if it will help.

After I've established that as a routine, I'm going to try adding a hefty dose of Vitamin D, which my friend Laura swears by.

Finally, Witch Doctors. 

If I'm not feeling fabulously energized after doing these three things, I'm going to go all kinds of kung fu crazy and see an acupuncturist recommended by my friend Lara.

I might even go hog-wild super crazy and see that hand-scanning dude in Rexburg.

And if That Doesn't Work....

I'll do some serious introspection and see if I have some sort of deeply-rooted psychological issues that are draining all my energy.

And if That Doesn't Work....

I'll buck it up and deal with being tired.

I think that will about take up a year.  Wish me so much luck!!!  Here's to a more energetic 2013!

P.S. I know that exercise contributes to energy levels too, but that's not on the list because I'm already fairly good about exercising regularly.

P.P.S. Also, I'm pretty responsible about getting enough sleep.  I'm a bear if I don't get 8-9 hours a night so I make it a priority.  My kiddos like to interrupt that sleep as much as possible, but I do what I can in that area.


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